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PEW RESEARCH CENTERJULY 13, 2021
Network News Fact Sheet
MORE FACT SHEETS: STATE OF THE NEWS MEDIA
Network TV news – appointment viewing for many Americans – saw its audience increase somewhat across networks in 2020. Financially, advertiser expenditure for the news programs of the three major networks (ABC, CBS and NBC) has been steady in recent years. Explore the patterns and longitudinal data about network TV news below.
Audience
The average audiences for the evening newscasts of ABC, CBS and NBC grew across all three networks, according to Comscore TV Essentials® data. (Average audience is defined as the average number of TVs tuned to a program throughout a time period.)
ABC evening news viewership grew 16% to 7.6 million viewers in 2020, following an 11% increase in 2019. CBS evening news viewership grew 7% to about 5 million viewers in 2020, while NBC viewership rose 8% to 6.5 million.
Average audience for network TV evening news
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Average number of TVs tuning to newsprogramming during the evening newstime slot for ABC, CBS and NBC
2016
2017
2018
2019
2020
0
5 M
10 M
ABCCBSNBC
Note: Numbers represent ABC, CBS and NBC for the full year and include live viewership only. "Average audience" is the average number of TVs tuned to an entity throughout the selected time frame. It is calculated by dividing the total hours viewed by the length of the time frame (in hours). "National news" is defined as any telecast that has been flagged by Comscore (either by notification from clients or from standard processes) as being a news-based program airing at approximately the same time across a majority of markets. The evening news time slot is defined as early fringe by Comscore and includes newscasts that air from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Source: Comscore TV Essentials®, 2016-2020, U.S.
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Average audiences for morning news programs from ABC, CBS and NBC remained mostly steady in 2020, with CBS seeing a slight (5%) decline in morning news viewership.
Average audience for network TV morning news
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Average number of TVs tuning to newsprogramming during the morning newstime slot for ABC, CBS and NBC
2016
2017
2018
2019
2020
0
5 M
10 M
ABCCBSNBC
Note: Numbers represent ABC, CBS and NBC for the full year and include live viewership only. "Average audience" is the average number of TVs tuned to an entity throughout the selected time frame. It is calculated by dividing the total hours viewed by the length of the time frame (in hours). "National news" is defined as any telecast that has been flagged by Comscore (either by notification from clients or from standard processes) as being a news-based program airing at approximately the same time across a majority of markets. The morning news time slot includes newscasts that air from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. Source: Comscore TV Essentials®, 2016-2020, U.S.
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Average audiences for the network TV Sunday morning political talk shows on ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC – This Week, Face the Nation, Fox News Sunday and Meet the Press, respectively – benefited from the election season, each increasing by about 20% in 2020.
Average audience for network TV Sunday morning political talk shows
 
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Average number of TVs tuning toSunday morning political talk shownews programming for ABC's ThisWeek, CBS's Face the Nation, Fox NewsSunday and NBC's Meet the Press
2016
2017
2018
2019
2020
0
5 M
10 M
ABCCBSNBCFOX
Note: Numbers represent ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC for the full year and include live viewership only. "Average audience" is the average number of TVs tuned to an entity throughout the selected time frame. It is calculated by dividing the total hours viewed by the length of the time frame (in hours). "National news" is defined as any telecast that has been flagged by Comscore (either by notification from clients or from standard processes) as being a news-based program airing at approximately the same time across a majority of markets. Sunday morning political talk shows include ABC's This Week, CBS's Face the Nation, Fox News Sunday and NBC's Meet the Press. Source: Comscore TV Essentials®, 2016-2020 U.S.
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The average audience for the four newsmagazine shows aired by the networks – ABC’s 20/20, CBS’s 60 Minutes and 48 Hours, and NBC’s Dateline – increased for each network about 10% in 2020, following a stable year for CBS and NBC in 2019 and a 21% increase for ABC in 2019. (Since the average audience data from Comscore is not broken out by news programs, the CBS figures below represent the average audience for 48 Hours and 60 Minutes combined.)
Average audience for network TV newsmagazines
 
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Average number of TVs tuning tonewsmagazine programming for ABC's20/20, CBS's 48 Hours and 60 Minutes,and NBC's Dateline
2016
2017
2018
2019
2020
0
5 M
10 M
ABCCBSNBC
Note: Numbers represent ABC, CBS and NBC for the full year and include live viewership only. "Average audience" is the average number of TVs tuned to an entity throughout the selected time frame. It is calculated by dividing the total hours viewed by the length of the time frame (in hours). "National news" is defined as any telecast that has been flagged by Comscore (either by notification from clients or from standard processes) as being a news-based program airing at approximately the same time across a majority of markets. Newsmagazine network shows include ABC's 20/20, CBS's 48 Hours and 60 Minutes, and NBC's Dateline. Source: Comscore TV Essentials®, 2016-2020, U.S.
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Economics
Advertiser expenditures for the evening broadcast news programs ABC’s World News Tonight, CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News each rose in 2020, according to estimates from Kantar. ABC saw a 22% increase in 2020, while CBS and NBC each saw an 8% increase. (This data reflects Kantar’s estimates of the amount of money paid by advertisers, rather than the amount of revenue actually earned by networks.)
Advertiser expenditure for evening network news
 
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Gross advertiser expenditures fornetwork TV evening news programs
ABC (previous)
CBS (previous)
NBC (previous)
ABC
CBS
NBC
2014
2016
2018
2020
0
200 M
400 M
600 M
Note: Shading indicates change in methodology. The methodology for this analysis changed in 2018, while data for prior years remains unchanged. As such, no comparison should be drawn between 2018-20 and any prior year. The above figures only include Monday through Friday telecasts of ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News. These figures reflect total payments by advertisers for purchase of commercial time. A proportion of these payments are paid as commissions or fees to media buyers, and the balance are recognized by the network as revenue.
Source: Kantar.
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The three networks’ advertiser expenditures for the morning news programs each remained steady in 2020, though CBS and NBC saw increases in 2019 (12% and 7%, respectively).
Advertiser expenditure for morning network news
 
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Gross advertiser expenditures fornetwork TV morning news programs
ABC (previous)
CBS (previous)
NBC (previous)
ABC
CBS
NBC
2014
2016
2018
2020
0
200 M
400 M
600 M
Note: Shading indicates change in methodology. The methodology for this analysis changed in 2018, while data for prior years remains unchanged. As such, no comparison should be drawn between 2018-20 and any prior year. The above figures only include Monday through Friday telecasts of ABC's Good Morning America, CBS This Morning and NBC's Today. These figures reflect total payments by advertisers for purchase of commercial time. A proportion of these payments are paid as commissions or fees to media buyers, and the balance are recognized by the network as revenue.
Source: Kantar.
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Find out more
This fact sheet was compiled by Research Assistant Kirsten Worden and Research Analyst Mason Walker.
Read the methodology.
Pew Research Center is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts, its primary funder. This is the latest report in Pew Research Center’s ongoing investigation of the state of news, information and journalism in the digital age, a research program funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, with generous support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Find more in-depth explorations of network news by following the links below:

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